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USB 3.0 & USB 3.1 merger into USB 3.2 branding by overseers further confusing USB-C

A USB Type-C cable is used to connect to MacBooks.

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The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has muddied the waters surrounding how different USB standards are named, with USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 set to become different generations of USB 3.2, while USB 3.2 itself will become the more confusingly named "USB 3.2 Gen 2x2."

Announced as part of Mobile World Congress, the USB-IF is absorbing the prior USB 3-based specifications into USB 3.2, making all three versions use the same name but under three different generations.

What was previously referred to as USB 3.0, and at one point USB 3.1 Gen 1, will instead have the technical name USB 3.2 Gen 1, due to being the earliest of the three generations, reports Toms Hardware. USB 3.1, also known as USB 3.1 Gen 2, is being renamed USB 3.2 Gen 2.

To add to the confusion, the unreleased USB 3.2 will not follow the expected convention of being called USB 3.2 Gen 3, but instead will be known as USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. The odd numbering change is in reference to its maximum data transfer rate of 20Gbps, which it achieves by using two 10Gbps channels, namely double the amount of channels used by USB Gen 2.

The name changes for USB 3.1, USB 3.1, and USB 3.2
The name changes for USB 3.1, USB 3.1, and USB 3.2

The spec names have nothing to do with the physicality of the connector. USB 3.2 Gen 1 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 can connect with the rectangular USB-A or the USB-C connector. USB 3.2 gen 2x2 is limited to USB-C only. Thunderbolt 3 branding and naming remains unchanged.

For marketing purposes, USB-IF suggests a slightly more logical naming scheme. While USB 3.2 Gen 1 should be called SuperSpeed USB, Gen 2 is to be termed SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, with the inclusion of the speed to denote it as faster than Gen 1. USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 is being given a similar marketing term of SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps.

It is suggested devices using USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 will be arriving in 2019 on high-performance desktops, with peripherals likely to arrive in 2020 once support for the standard becomes more widespread.

Apple is a notable member of the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which means it is highly likely to be an early adopter of USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 in its hardware.